Eventually ISIL was defeated in Mosul by a wide coalition of forces, but one group in particular can claim to have been the driving force in clearing the city. The black uniformed men of Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service (ICTS) led the attack on, and the defeat of, the extremists.
“They look like us. They have an open mind and conduct missions the same way we do,” says Brig. Gen. Patrick Roberson of the US Special Forces, currently training the latest recruits into the ICTS.
Following the operations in Mosul, the ICTS has been widely praised, and recognised as one of the best anti-terrorist fighting units on the planet.
The ICTS was established by the US Special Forces in 2004, with a remit to face the spiralling violence that followed the US invasion of Iraq in the year before.
Speaking to Yalla, security researcher Hisham al-Hashimi said: “The ICTS has not lost a single battle against ISIL since May 15, 2015, and has succeeded in every operation it has been tasked.
“The ICTS can be described as an impact force because of its unique battle tactics and the successful liberation of cities that were under the control of ISIL.”
Hashimi points out that the ICTS differs from other Iraqi forces: “The Counter Terrorism Service [does not report to the MoD or MoI], as determined by its founding principles, ratified in parliament.”
Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, second-in-command of the ICTS, told Yalla that the unit answers directly to the commander in chief: “Our future is solely in the hands of Prime Minister Abadi, it is not for us to speculate on the matter. However, the ICTS is a constitutional institution that exits, and will continue to do so, because of the law.”
Al-Saadi addressed some of the praise that the ICTS has received in recent weeks and months. “The battles fought by the Counter Terrorism Service on various fronts, and the hardware with which they are armed, has it leading some rankings that assess the strength and courage of forces in the Middle East, but these rankings are not based on official data or committees.”
He added: “These rankings are unofficial, based on current operations and collected images and videos. It would have been better if these rankings were done by specialised committees and the evaluation of experts. The ICTS is excellently equipped to do specific tasks, even though we are neither an army nor a division, but a security and intelligence service, as defined by the law.”
The ICTS, numbering nearly ten thousand fighters, is the elite of Iraq’s security forces. Hence the willingness by both the Iraqi and US government to work towards quickly restructuring and replenishing the units after they lost 40% of resources – both men and weapons – during the nine-month battle for Mosul.
Experts agree that the strength of the ICTS is vital to the long term success of Iraq preventing a new insurgency.